Monday Morning Message with Jason Beem April 11, 2022
A good Monday morning to you all! I hope the weekend of racing, golf, baseball opening, and whatever else you were watching treated you well. I could write about my Seattle Mariners starting 2-1 or Scottie Scheffler dominating at the Masters, but this is a horse racing blog and I should probably stick to what pays the bills. But seriously, good start, Mariners!
Big days in horse racing sometimes end up leaving me feeling perplexed. There’s so much going on during a four-to-five-hour window that it’s hard to keep up with everything going on. Not to mention the fact that more often than not, whether as a horseplayer or a fan, the races don’t play out how you’d hoped they would. But I have to admit that overall this weekend I found the big races all pretty truly run and essentially satisfying as a fan.
#Zandon comes from off the pace to roll home a winner of the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) with Flavien Prat aboard for @TheRealChadCBr1.— TwinSpires Racing 🏇 (@TwinSpires) April 9, 2022
Your #TwinSpiresReplay pic.twitter.com/75ilVWZ7vY
Before we talk about the Blue Grass S., I want to do my yearly complaint about Keeneland using the same color saddle towels in their big stakes events. I think it’s completely ridiculous and frustrating to our customers to continue this "tradition."
I sat and watched the Blue Grass in an OTB/bar setting after the races at Tampa Bay Downs, and neither myself or the two guys I was watching with had any idea who was who on the far turn when all the moves were getting made. Now granted, when I’m announcing, I have to memorize silks. But I don’t think our customers should have to do that to watch a race and know what’s going on. And a huge majority of horseplayers identify which horse is theirs by the saddle towel number. Even the Breeders’ Cup finally got rid of the all purple towels a few years ago, and it’s awesome now. We can actually tell who’s who!
OK, that rant went longer than I meant for it to, sorry! I’m back now. So going into the Blue Grass, I was a big Emmanuel supporter. I thought what I saw from him at Tampa a couple starts back showed a horse with unlimited potential and ability. So when he broke so well and was coasting along all the way to the far turn, I really started to get excited. But alas, he just wasn’t as good as the top two, Zandon and Smile Happy.
Both of those two are coming out of the Risen Star S. that was won by Epicenter, who many consider to be the current favorite for the Kentucky Derby. Hat tip to my pal and TwinSpires colleague Scott Shapiro who has had the top three from the Risen Star as his top three in his Kentucky Derby Top 10. That prep continues to prove its strength, and the folks at the Fair Grounds have to be thrilled with how well not only their Derby trail preps have gone, but also their Oaks runners.
The two colts that ran closest to #Epicenter in the Risen Star (G2) in February appear the horses to beat in the $1 million Blue Grass S. (G1) @keenelandracing on Saturday.#VanceHanson previews the Blue Grass field ⤵️ https://t.co/gMNwFRixnr pic.twitter.com/TweKgtBM5Y— TwinSpires Racing 🏇 (@TwinSpires) April 7, 2022
One thing that I thought was interesting in all three of the major Saturday prep races was that essentially the top two in each race were clearly the best two horses. Zandon and Smile Happy were well clear of the rest. Taiba and Messier demolished their rivals in the Santa Anita Derby. And while Mo Donegal and Early Voting were clearly the top two in the Wood Memorial, I think you can make an argument that after the bad start, Morello was compromised and maybe deserves a shot on the first Saturday in May, as he’ll definitely have enough points to get in. But other than Morello, any of the other non top-two finishers from Saturday don’t have enough points as of now to get in.
Of course we still have the Lexington Stakes left to go, and there will certainly be more defections as we get closer and closer to the race. In fact, by Sunday it sounded like both Classic Causeway and Forbidden Kingdom had been taken out of consideration for the Kentucky Derby. And just 10 days ago, they were both considered top-five or top-10 choices for the Derby! So much can change so fast in this game and on this Road to the Kentucky Derby!